Industrial agriculture receiving the bulk of Africa’s agricultural development funding 

Money flows in agricultural development are still reinforcing damaging industrial models in Africa, according to a new report by Biovision, IPES-Food and the UK-based Institute of Development Studies.

The Money Flows report looks at investments in sub-Saharan Africa with a focus on the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the biggest philanthropic investor in agri-development, Switzerland, a major bilateral donor, and Kenya, one of Africa’s leading recipients and implementers of agricultural research for development or AgR4D. Kenya ranks third in sub-Saharan Africa in spending on agricultural research after Nigeria and South Africa.

Biovision president Hans Herren said: “Most governments, both in developing and developed countries, still favour ‘green revolution’ approaches, with the belief that chemical-intensive, large-scale industrial agriculture is the only way to produce sufficient food.”

“But these approaches have failed,” warns Herren, winner of the 1995 World Food Prize and 2013 Right Livelihood Award. “They have failed ecosystems, farming communities, and an entire continent.”

Herren added: “With the compound challenges of climate change, pressure on land and water, food-induced health problems and pandemics such as COVID, we need change now. And this starts with money flowing into agroecology.”

Approximately 30% of farms around the world are estimated to have redesigned their production systems around agroecological principles, the report says.

The report finds that support for agroecology is now growing across the agri-development community, particularly in light of climate change, but this hasn’t yet translated into a meaningful shift in funding flows.

Around 13% of projects carried out by Kenyan research institutes are ‘agroecological’, with a further 13% of projects focussing on the substitution of synthetic inputs.

Olivia Yambi, the co-chair of IPES-Food, said: “We need to change funding flows and unequal power relations. It’s clear that in Africa as elsewhere, vested interests are propping up agricultural practices based on an obsession with technological fixes that are damaging soils and livelihoods and creating a dependency on the world’s biggest agribusinesses. Agroecology offers a way out of that vicious cycle.”

To accelerate this shift to agroecology, the report calls on donors to the shift towards long-term, pooled funding models; require projects to be co-designed with farmers and communities; increase the share of funding going to African organisations; and increase transparency in how their projects are funded, monitored and measured for impact.

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